Mind boggling zero waste dairy.

This is a post for all my non-vegan earth lovers and for anyone, like me, whose mind is boggled by zero waste dairy. It gets easier. Our approach is to seek out recyclable, reusable or byo packaging and generally eat more plants. While our health and well-being are paramount, we feel that any effort in favour of plant-rich foods should be applauded.

As Michael Pollan says…

“Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

Here’s some food for thought on zero waste dairy:

  • Adopt something plant-based: I’m a non vegan ex-cheese snob who loves soy milk, coconut yoghurt, nut butter; and macadamia feta. I’ve tried cashew Parmesan and discovered that it’s easier to make myself. It’s great on roast vegetables. As a result, I’m now cooking with nutritional yeast. It’s not always peachy. When our soy boccocini melted into a ‘pearl jam’ consistency, I must admit I struggled to find it appealing 😜
  • Ask questions: By popular demand, a couple of local dairy farmers are now stocking milk in refillable glass bottles. We want to be a voice in that popular demand. For me, it still takes courage, but I’m getting used to saying “I’m trying to reduce my plastic use, would it be ok to put this in my own container?” I’m looking forward to a day when I can buy soy milk in glass too. We also return egg cartons for reuse.
  • Avoid plastic: We have found milk, yoghurt and cheese in glass or paper packaging from local suppliers. We buy parmesan in bulk to reduce packaging overall. It’s a conundrum for me that many vegan options are not yet plastic-free in Australia.
  • Favour local, ethical farmers: We’re lucky enough to live near ethical farmers. When we do buy dairy, we’ll try to support those that are not only ensuring that animals live well, but they also support environmentally sustainable practises in agriculture. Meat and dairy industries vary across the world, so this one takes a bit of research. I’m forever learning and try to be mindful of bias, propaganda and greenwashing.
  • Make it yourself: I experimented with homemade yoghurt and it’s surprisingly easy! Am yet to make vegan milk, but the recipe for almond milk seems like a no brainer.

Zero waste plastic free dairy and vegan alternatives

Zero waste plastic free dairy and vegan alternatives

Plant-based cheese review from a cheese snob!!

My French-influenced upbringing made me a cheese fiend for most of my life. I understood the difference between cheeses before I knew how to multiply. When I was 3, I liked smoked gouda. When I was 8, my preference was brie. Just like a fine cheese, I was well cultured. Later in life, when I lived with my best friend and vegan buddy, I actually found it easy to be vegan at home… except for cheese.

Soy boccocini

The bocconcini is ok. The texture matches its dairy counterpart. It melts in an unfamiliar and less attractive way though (it looks like ‘pearl jam’ when melted). It’s soy-based but doesn’t have a soy after-taste (note that I might be biased because I love soy milk). It tastes creamy.

In use: Do not melt. Add to salads and serve cold. 

Cashew cheese

The cashew cheese is astoundingly delicious but you can make this yourself for a fraction of the price. Just grind up some cashews, salt and yeast and save a heap of dollaridoos (As a bonus: Add silken tofu for a creamy vegan béchamel sauce). This jar is far too expensive for what it is but I like that they have exposed how easy it is to substitute the flavour of Parmesan sprinkles. To me, this mimics the cheap Parmesan flakes, not the actual cheese block.

In use: Sprinkle on roast vegetables before putting in the oven. Then make your own after this runs out.


Good health is paramount

I learned that good health is paramount & that it’s ok to create medical waste. I learned the power of self care & mindfulness. I discovered that napping, stretching & eating well is pretty effective. I realised that a healthy recovery sometimes doesn’t require medication.


Staying alive

Be realistic and accept that some medical conditions require waste. Your health is paramount and modern medicine saves lives. Swallow your pride and remember that there comes a time in everyone’s life when the doctor says “Can I have some of your poo?” and you’ve just gotta ignore all the standards you’ve set for yourself and drop the kids off at the plastic pool.

Medical waste | Ain't no Planet B
Medical waste is a fact of life

A topic I’d love to hear more about is zero waste sickness. I’ve had great health since starting zero waste because I’m eating well, am looking after myself and am more mindful. But I don’t have a medical condition. So, what about the serious illnesses? What about the times when natural medicine can’t cure you? Sometimes medical plastics are unavoidable.

When my husband, James was 14 years old, he was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. For 16 years, he has manually injected himself with insulin and tested his blood. Every syringe and single-use blood test strip has been a saving grace that keeps him alive.

Today, he is relieved to have upgraded to a wearable insulin pump that automatically injects insulin and monitors his blood. James reckons he has become part robot and he loves the freedom that this tech has given him.

Insulin pump | Ain't no Planet B
Pump & applicator for insulin-dependent diabetes

He has two wearables: His insulin pump and a continual glucose meter. He needs to change the cannula and reservoir in his pump every 3 days. The glucose meter is changed every 6 days. The tech comes with a single purpose applicator to ensure a sterilised and safe application. Unfortunately, this system creates a lot more waste than the manual one. Down the track, there may be opportunities to find a system that produces less landfill. But sadly for now, some waste is essential. I’m just so grateful for modern medicine and to have the best treatment available for my best friend.

Standard amount of waste for insulin pump | Ain't no Planet B
Standard amount of waste for insulin pump

Favour recyclable packaging

Ask questions. Explore options. If given a choice by your doctor, take small steps to reduce the amount of single-use plastic required. Avoid blister packs. Favour bulk. Vitamins are often available in glass jars. Headache tablets can be sold in bulk plastic tubs.

Favour glass for medical waste | Ain't no Planet B
Favour recyclable packaging for medical waste

My husband was shocked by the amount of single-use plastic required for his insulin pump. He asked his doctor loads of questions and found that this pump can be topped up using the same syringe he’s familiar with (100% plastic) or a vial (glass / metal / rubber). Being inspired by zero waste, he’s opted for glass vials that have a metal and rubber lid and are packaged in paper. Using recyclable packaging makes no difference to his wellbeing, but it results in significantly less plastic coming into our home.

Refilling the old way | Ain't no Planet B
Refilling the old way

On a slightly less life-threatening note, I have had bouts of mild insomnia at various times in my life. It occasionally gets to the point where a pill is necessary. Rather than purchasing blister packs and plastic containers, I now favour a glass container with loose pills inside. It cures me of my temporary ailment and I now have a jar that I can reuse for toiletries.

If a fork in the road presents itself, and it has no impact on my wellbeing, I try to favour recyclable packaging.


Consider a drug-free remedy

If your doctor says it’s ok, consider not buying a product at all and opt for natural remedies, manual therapy or recovering at a steady pace.

Tension headaches | Ain't no Planet B
Ain’t no painkillers for my tension headaches

I can get tension headaches from sitting at a desk all day. Rather than taking a painkiller, I go to a manual therapist to solve the problem at its core: knotted shoulders and neck. It works a treat!

I have a special talent at getting food poisoning. It’s really quite remarkable just how many types of food I’ve been poisoned by: milk, bread, beans and prawns. Seafood poisoning was the worst. I thought I’d never recover. When I’ve tried to take a pill for my belly, it’s resulted in further discomfort. Despite my best efforts to speed up recovery, the best remedy for food poisoning has always been hydration, time and a delicate diet of rice, broth, bananas, salted bread and whatever vegetables my body is craving. This is a sickness that takes a great deal of patience and self-awareness.

Sickness varies from person to person, and I trust that the doctor knows what’s best for me. If I’m lucky enough to have the option, I’ll heal without medication.


Look after yourself

Get regular check ups from your doctor, dentist and therapist. Eat well, exercise, take a nap, do some stretches and listen to your mother.

Eat fresh foods | Ain't no Planet B
Understand how food can affect your health

I’ve had this book, “Foods that Harm. Foods that Heal.” all my life. I think it’s shaped me. It offers a reference for what to eat/avoid in certain health situations. My mum would refer to it when I had a sore tummy or a cold. I began to flick through the pages when I experienced the joys of puberty. Today, it’s a reference for a quicker recovery or supporting a change in lifestyle like reducing meat in my diet or increasing exercise. Even though some parts are a little outdated, I’m always learning something new.

I’ve also noticed that I’m stretching more and am mindful and realistic about when I’m run down, so I rest (I vaguely remember my mum telling me about this far out thing called “resting”). I don’t quite know how to explain it but I can see how zero waste is an enabler for good health.


How to be fully sick without feeling bad

Good health is paramount & it’s ok to create medical waste. Look after yourself. Ask questions, explore options, listen to your doctor and do whatever you need to be as healthy as can be.

Next: Let’s talk about sex, baby!


Quality flour + Clean water = Freedom

I want to fill my life with as much creative play as possible. Making, experimenting and trying new things is good for our souls. Doing this together strengthens bonds and has the potential to build ritual and knowledge from tasks.

Together is better. We’ve been practising making tortillas, mountain bread, sour dough and naan bread. By shifting dinner from a task to a shared ritual, we’ve change our mindset from “I can’t be bothered cooking” to “let’s cook together”. Being surrounded by modern conveniences, I had lost touch with this way of living.

Quality flour + clean water = freedom. If my partner and I can make these things well, then we‘ll no longer value convenience. Instead, we’ll value quality, core ingredients. It will be more affordable. It will be nutritionally better for us. It will help us tap into traditional cultures and connect with our collective history. It will enrich our lives. It’s a win win win.


Eating kangaroo for environmental reasons.

I haven’t eaten cow, pig or lamb in almost 10 years. Plus, I’ve hardly eaten any meat in the last couple of months. I’m practically vegetarian. I listen to my body and it rewards me when I feed it an occasional piece of quality meat. I’ll aim to eat anything that has a neutral-positive effect on the Australian environment but I still have much to learn. My approach comes with naive hope that Australia will:

  • Favour consumption of over-populated pests;
  • Build up the population of native wildlife through consumer demand; and
  • Reduce meat consumption overall.

No more binge eating 3-4 types of meat from animals that can’t withstand drought. No more “throw another shrimp on the barbie” or highly televised lamb advertisements in the lead up to Australia day. No more “you don’t make friends with salad”. Respect, diversity and control.

Introduced species such as rabbit, camel and water buffalo are over-populated and problematic for our native wildlife. If they were a popular meat, maybe our native flora and fauna would be slightly better off?

Australia has a lush selection of edible plants and tasty native meats such as emu, wallaby, kangaroo and crocodile. Cruelty aside, if we were farming more natives, surely that’s a better use of agricultural land compared to cattle, pig and sheep farming? It could reduce soil salinity, irrigation and land clearing. Maybe the cattle farmers would maintain employment. Maybe more of our land can be focused on re-wilding initiatives and greater biodiversity.

Supporting any form of monoculture (cow, cotton, soy, etc) can have detrimental effects on the environment. I’m not saying this approach is perfect. It’s just another way to look at conscious consumerism. 🙃

For Aussies: Kangaroo steak can be found at @colessupermarkets and @woolworths_au in the ‘Game meat’ section. Occasionally, we can find rabbit, duck and camel too. These are NOT sold package free. Markets and boutique butchers sometimes have alternative meats where you could try to byo container (still working up the courage to do this myself).

I believe that purchasing alternative food is a vote in favour of diversity. 🐄🐖🐑🐓


Zero waste snacks

I’ve learnt that zero waste snacking requires a totally different frame of mind. Instead of being drawn to the colourful, shiny plastic packets in the supermarket and checkout shelves, I now snack on fruit slices, nuts, dried fruit, popcorn, chocolate covered macadamias/almonds and these veggie chips. It’s like being on a diet, except I don’t really care that most of it happens to be good for me.


Whole watermelon

When plastic free demands that I buy the whole fruit, I’ve been trying to explore all the delicious options available. One whole watermelon = 2 x watermelon salads, a small jar of pickled watermelon rind, 1 litre of iced tea, multiple slices for snacks, a lunchbox full of sorbet, and a small container full of frozen cubes for hot days and smoothies.


I am a make-do cook.

I was craving a slice of vegetarian pizza. We had bread, sad looking vegetables, passata and herbs so I made this extremely satisfying vegan toast. It’s not quite pizza, but it was a delicious way to avoid food waste.

 


By demand: Why am I not vegan?

My dietary requirement is “vegetarian-preference / no onion”. By demand, here’s your “Why isn’t she vegan?” post 😜

Our household has three humans and a dog 😀🙃🤓🐺. One of us is diabetic. By eating more nuts, mushrooms and leafy greens, all three humans have reduced their meat/dairy intake significantly. I take a non-pious, anti-evangelical approach to environmentalism. This is why I will never tell a friend what they should/shouldn’t eat or how their plastic product is polluting our planet. I maintain a positive, supportive stance, forever learning from others. Ensuring psychological safety is paramount.

When I cut out major meat consumption 8 years ago, I decided to only boycott beef, lamb and pig. This way, my partner (who is such a great cook that he should be a chef #justsayin) can still experiment with different cooking styles. If he wants to cook red meat, we have kangaroo. One dose of red meat per week seems to work well. I’m ok with this low level of consumption.

I eat butter, eggs, cheese and occasionally ice cream. I do prefer vegan butter but not as much as I love my mates. We all drink soy milk because it prevents food waste.

Why I’m not vegan or vegetarian:

  1. Onion-free vegetarian food is hard to come by (chicken or fish is often the low-onion option at restaurants).
  2. I love my husband.
  3. I love cheese. It’s one thing my family can bond over.
  4. I want to support diversity in meat consumption ie kangaroo & emu to reduce soil salinity and rabbit, buffalo and camel to keep numbers down.
  5. I’ve learnt that it’s easier to be zero waste if you’re vegan. I am inspired to find a way to make meat/dairy more inclusive to zero waste living.
  6. I don’t believe in absolutes.

💚 Thanks to the increasing awareness of Fodmap diets, I’m able to reduce my chicken and fish intake. Thanks to the growing popularity of kangaroo meat, I’m able to support this farming practice. Thanks to inspiring vegan friends, I’m aware of how to balance nutrition for a low meat / high exercise lifestyle.


The challenge of zero-waste meat and cheese

I love cheese so very much. Going 100% plastic free has been challenging for us non-vegans.

It’s hard to find cheese and meat without planning waaaay ahead. Our options are further limited by a 9-5 work schedule. Most places aren’t open late, and there’s a small window during the weekend.

We happened to run out of meat and cheese when @plasticfreejuly clocked in so we went without for a few days. I told our housemate about our struggle. On her day off, she managed to find places in Carlton that sell cheese and meat (almost) plastic free. I don’t know which one I’m more excited about: the giant slabs of cheese in our fridge, or the thought and generosity behind this gesture. Thank you @jujuskoo101 for being amazing